Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Drivers of Soil Fungal Communities Across Three Tropical Rainforests in Panama

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  • Fungi play critical roles in ecosystem processes and interact with plant communities in mutualistic, pathogenic, and commensal ways. Fungal communities are thought to be influenced by both associated tree communities and soil properties. However, the relative importance of the biotic and abiotic drivers of soil fungal community structure and diversity in lowland tropical forests remains poorly understood. Community structure of trees and fungi was examined along a strong nutrient gradient in moist tropical forests in Panama. Soil properties and fine root biomass were characterized, and the ITS1 barcode region was sequenced to describe fungal community composition from 70 soil cores across three 1-ha tropical rainforest sites. Each fungal OTU was classified into different functional guilds: Plant pathogens, saprophytes, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM), or ectomycorrhizal (ECM). Soil pH and moisture were common drivers of fungal communities of all guilds among forest sites. However, there were differences in strength of responses of fungal guilds to tree neighborhoods and soils in mostly expected ways based on their ecological function. Plant pathogens and saprophytes were more strongly correlated with soil properties than with tree neighborhood composition; ECM fungi showed a stronger correlation with tree neighborhood composition than with soil properties; and AM fungi were correlated with soil properties, but not with trees around cores. Overall, co-occurring fungal guilds respond differently to similar environmental factors, depending on their ecological function. Finally, obligate symbiotic guilds also responded to soil properties, highlighting the joint role that abiotic and biotic factors play in determining composition of fungal communities.
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Peer Reviewed
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  • Existing Confidentiality Agreement
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  • 2018-01-23 to 2018-05-29



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